Redcoat Rickey Cocktail ImageOne of the things I frequently notice when rummaging through drink recipes is how varied the instructions for a given drink can be. Sometimes the variations are slight- One recipe calls for a half ounce of something, the other calls for three-quarters. Sometimes ingredients are omitted entirely...or other things are substituted. And occasionally you'll see two recipes by the same name that bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever.

As I've said before, we have to remember that drinks are organic. Not just in their component parts (although I've seen some disturbing things on liquor store shelves that I'd swear were wholly synthetic), but also in how they develop over time. Anyone who has ever attempted to make a Mai Tai faithful to the original Trader Vic recipe only to find that J. Wray & Nephew 17-year-old rum hasn't existed for decades knows this first-hand.

This fluidity can extend beyond specific recipes and affect entire drink categories as well. I discovered this when I was trying to find the definition of the type of drink known as the "rickey." Here's what I found while browsing through my drink books:


  • "Rickey: A spirit, lime juice, sugar and soda"
    from "The Art of the Bar" by Hollinger & Schwartz, 2006
  • "A rickey is always made of squeezed citrus juice, liquor of your choice, and club soda."
    from "The Official Mixer's Manual" by Patrick Gavin Duffy, 1983 edition
  • "Rum Rickey: ...juice of 1/2 or whole lime, 1 jigger of rum. Fill up with carbonated water..."
    from "The Olde Mr. Boston DeLuxe Official Bartender's Guide" 1936 edition

So we've got one definition of the rickey as having sugar and lime juice specifically. And one where apparently any citrus juice will do...but no sweetener whatsoever. And lastly, a recipe that specifies lime juice (but leaving the amount to your discretion), and again, no sweetener.

That's just 3 examples. Had I spent more time leafing through additional volumes, I'm confident I'd find more variations. If the drink gurus who write these tomes can't even agree on broad categorical definitions, how can we ever expect them to agree on specific drink recipes?

What's my point? It's this: Think twice before adhering too closely to what any one source says is the single, absolute, completely correct way to do something. It's good advice for many things in life, but especially with regard to cocktails (Do you like your Martinis shaken or stirred? I rest my case).

Just for the record, I like my rickeys with lime, and a little touch of something sweet. But that's just me. If someone wants theirs made a little differently, I can live with it. Variety is the spice of life...and I think life should be spicy whenever possible.

Bottoms up!

~ Dr. Bamboo

Redcoat Rickey


  • 2 oz. London dry gin (Beefeater 24 works well here)
  • .5 oz. Maraschino liqueur (I like Luxardo)
  • .5 oz. falernum*
  • .5 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake everything with ice and strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Top with seltzer/soda water, and garnish with a cherry.

* there are commercially-made falernums available (Fee's, Velvet), but I strongly recommend making your own from scratch. It's easy and tastes fantastic.

~ A Dr. Bamboo original creation